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Based on more than a decade of research, Crows offers an accurate, humorous, and wide-ranging introduction to these fascinating birds. Who would have guessed that there are more than 40 species of ravens and crows, all variations on a theme, cawing and croaking their way through the woodlands of North America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and various South Sea islands? (Of the temperate continents, only South America doesn’t know the charms of these amusing, intelligent birds.) Topics explored include evolution, distribution, diet and food-getting practices (including their ingenious use of tools), social behavior (including the many crow languages”), and impact on the human imagination, as reflected in mythology, literature, and popular aphorisms. Appealing to both the avid birder or the more casual nature lover, Crows is rich in insight, humor, and stories.
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In this charming introduction to the genus Corvus, Savage consolidates scientific research with myths and legends, to attest to the cleverness of crows, ravens, rooks and jackdaws. Savage begins with reports of tool-use by crows in New Guinea; they not only use bits of twig to dig insects out of narrow holes, but they also shape the twigs to form hooks that grab insects and prevent them from escaping. As legends show, humans have been fascinated by crows for thousands of years, and the raven plays a prominent role in many aboriginal creation myths. Synthesizing science and storytelling, Savage shows that the ancient image of crow-as-trickster bears out among contemporary researchers, who have observed such crow behavior as misrepresentation and misdirection. In addition, some species of crow show evidence of language skills and even artistic sensibility (as in the case of a winged shell collector). They also exhibit cooperative child-rearing, as well as grieving behavior after losing a mate or chick. Though this illuminating book ends too quickly, readers wishing to follow up on the clever Corvus will be quite pleased with Savage's detailed footnotes and lengthy list of references.
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